With Wijnaldum’s exit in the cards, Liverpool are forced to look for replacements, the latest one: Renato Sanches.
It’s mid January, or, in football terms, mid winter transfer window. As usual, transfer rumours are flying about like loose leaves on a windy day, and to nobody’s surprise, Liverpool seem to be linked with about every football player to walk on Earth (I mean, Sergio Ramos links? Seriously?).
Worry not! Not all of these rumours are cock and bull stories, and today we will make you more familiar with a player who has seemed to arouse genuine interest from the red half of Merseyside. A player who might replace Georginio Wjinaldum, specially with recent claims from the media that the Dutchman has decided to leave instead of renewing his contract with the Reds.
Some of you would surely remember a young Sanches playing for Welsh club Swansea in the 2017/18 Premier League season. On loan from Bayern Munich, Sanches hoped his English stint might rejuvenate his career, which was going downhill at the Allianz Arena. Ever since the Bavarians signed the Portuguese youngster on 10 May 2016, making him the most expensive player to transfer out of Liga Nos, he had failed to impress.
The 2016 Golden Boy winner had a similar impact on Swansea, which is almost none. Struggling with injuries, Sanches made a disappointing return to Munich on 1 July 2018. At the end of the 2017/18 season, Swansea manager Carvalhal said,
“Renato knows he has had a very bad season. He is not at the level he was and when he had the injury in January, it finished him. Renato has a big talent, but he has much to learn. He stopped learning when he left Benfica and went to one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
Sanches’ struggles continued and he was sold to Ligue 1 club, Lille, in 2018 at a reported fee of €23M, Lille’s record signing.
The move turned out to be a blessing. Sanches has turned about his career. Playing at the right in Lille’s often played 4-4-2, the 23 year old is showing frequent glimpses of the Benfica starlet which Bayern bought a few years ago.
Style of PlayEmbed from Getty Images
His style of play includes versatility in midfield, as well as being comfortable in defence, attacking, central and wide positions. His physical strength is a big attribute, as well as his passing abilities and composure while in possession. Sanches himself has claimed that he has molded his play of style according to that of Dutch legend, Clarence Seedorf, their intensities and passing styles said to be similar.
He also has a tendency to play longballs, shoot the ball from distance, cross and often plays the ball off the ground. He doesn’t make tackles
According to who scored.com, his strengths and weakness are:
Defensive contribution (strong)
Aerial Duels (weak)
His 2020/2021statistics are below: (includes Ligue 1 and Europa League)
(All are adjusted to be per game)
Fouls given away– 1.3
Dribbled past– 0.9
Shots per game– 1.1
Key passes– 0.5
Dribbles per game– 1.6
Fouls won– 1.2
Offsides per game– 0.1
Pass success rate– 90.5%
Long balls– 4.5
All of this was achieved through 732 minutes of action in 12 appearances across the 2 competitions (3 of the appearances being off the bench). He is also reasonably disciplined, with managing to get only 2 yellow cards.
Gini’s replacement?Embed from Getty Images
Sanches is not a stranger in Liverpool’s rumor mill, and Klopp seems to be a fan for quite a long time now. Although his Ligue 1 statistics are not as similar to Wjinaldum’s Premier League ones, as one might hope, he is certainly not someone to just not consider. Sanches and Wjinaldum do have a similar pass completion rate ( Sanches’ 89.6 vs Wjinaldum’s 92.3). However, the young Portuguese has a higher SpG (1.3 vs 0.8) and a overall rating which is pretty close to Wjinaldum’s (6.89 vs 6.66).
A concerning note about Sanches, however, is his injury record. Georginio Wjinaldum has been a fitness wonder for Liverpool in this injury prone season, his replacement surely needs to be as available as he has been. Alas, Sanches has been struggling with injuries since 2016, missing 56 games in 361 days spent on the sidelines over the last 4 years. Wjinaldum, on the other hand, has never missed a Liverpool game due to injury ever since his signing.
Will it happen?
With Sanches thriving in Ligue 1, whispers of a Premier League move are springing up everywhere. Trustworthy football journalist, Fabrizio Romano, has even let it slip in his Here We Go podcast that Liverpool might make a shock move for the Lille player in the summer transfer window, having monitored him previously.
“Pay attention to Renato Sanches. Next summer he will be on the market and Liverpool are looking at him. There is nothing advanced yet but they are looking at him as an opportunity. He’ll be a main target for top clubs and also for Liverpool.”Romano has claimed.
Although valued at €28M by TransferMarkt, Lille will, almost certainly, ask for a significantly higher price for Sanches. They have already rejected a €70m bid from the Premier League. But, Lille are in desperate need of money and cashing in on Sanches in the summer would be perfect for them. Liverpool is said to see him as the number 1 option to fill the void that would surely be left by Wjinaldum if he leaves Liverpool in the summer.